If Sally Rooney is the “Salinger for the Snapchat generation”, then she only seems to adapt to the television adaptation of her novel which got the title, it should be radical, risque and boundless.
The team behind the small-screen version of Normal People, Oscar-nominated director Lenny Abrahamson and producer Ed Guiney, believe that complex films about young people are increasingly in demand and the show will sit in a space similar to Sky’s Euphoria Atlantic and Netflix Sex Education.
“There is now room for several voices on TV,” said Abrahamson, who shares the directorial duties with Hettie McDonald and was nominated for the best Oscar director for Room in 2015. “You have Euphoria and Sex Education, which are the kind of programs that just weren’t about 20 years ago. They are more risque and the public can manage it. “
Abrahamson and Guiney won the battle to turn Rooney’s second novel into a 12-part BBC Three adaptation, and the first trailer of the long-awaited show was released on Friday.
Piers Wenger, BBC Drama controller, said that the opinions of young people and the challenges they are facing are always a source of great drama. “The lives of young people are more complicated and confusing now than ever, yet they run an agency on the world and I think they make them – and their stories – relevant to all of us,” he said. “I always thought everyone would be fascinated by normal people.”
Abrahamson said he wanted to make “a very strong statement” with Normal People and it was Rooney’s original style and young love story that made him want to adapt it. “The area is so interesting – it’s a positive report from two young lovers,” he said. “It sounds simple but there is a lot of cynicism around that type of material. It is a look at intimacy in the 21st century and a portrait of a very tender relationship. It is radical in a sense.”
This week’s analysis by BMO Capital Markets of Wall Street predicts that Netflix will spend approximately $ 17.3 billion (£ 13.2 billion) in content, rising to $ 26 billion by 2028. This came after an annual FX report revealed that there were 532 original shows made in the U.S. last year, a 7% increase over 2018.
Guiney said that even if we weren’t in an unprecedented era for television production, Rooney’s novel would still have been adapted. “Normal people are one of these things that would have been in any era. He would have raised his head above the parapet and requested a TV show in that previous era, “he said.
Element Pictures – which produced Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster and The Favorite, as well as Abrahamson’s Oscar nomination – is adapting the novel about a young couple’s turbulent relationship at school and at Trinity College in Dublin, and was the second Rooney’s book after his debut Conversations With Friends made the then 27-year-old a rising literary star who “called a generation”.
Rooney co-wrote six episodes with Alice Birch and Mark O’Rowe, and has merit as an executive producer. Guiney and Abrahamson claimed that the author had a great influence on the way ordinary people appear on the screen. “Sally was involved in all the initial discussions about how many episodes, the format, the conversations about the actors, as well as reading various versions of the script,” said Guiney. “He contributed to all of them; it was a real commitment. “
As for the second season of Fleabag, Normal People will be broadcast on BBC One and also online on BBC Three, the station’s youth-focused channel. It will be broadcast on Hulu in the United States.
Rose Garnett, head of BBC Films, who was first approached with the idea of developing the novel into a film, said that the success of the novel made the project unique. “There are so many people who feel a sense of belonging to that book and will watch the series wondering if their expectations will be met,” he said. “Pressure is a way of saying it, but I’d call it collective excitement.”
The decision was made to play relatively unknown actors Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal in the main parts, after searching around the world. “We did casting in Ireland and the UK,” said Guiney. “But we looked at Americans, Australians and went to all the English speaking countries. In the end, Paul is just outside Dublin; while Daisy is English but her mother is Irish. “
The BBC has not confirmed a preview date for Normal People, but said it will air in 2020.